Steve vividly remembers an early project in school in 1963 when he was ten, learning about Hillary and Tenzing conquering Everest.
He even remembers telling his brother, “One day me and you are going to follow in the footsteps of Hillary and Tenzing.” Steve Watts is a runner, a fundraiser and a storyteller. Steve spent a number of intense years as fundraising manager for the research and development team at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital, but decided to step back for a while concentrating on family life and, as he said, “get a normal job”. One day, in his late 50s he fell ill and subsequently had to have a pacemaker fitted. He thought he would never run again, but with excellent medical support he slowly made the road to recovery. Steve said, “The pacemaker gave me another chance, a new lease of life. This is where Everest comes into the story. It was my 60th birthday and my younger brother Peter gave me a birthday card with a few numbers inside.” It turned out that these numbers were the coordinates for Everest’s base camp. The birthday present was for both of them to go to the base camp and then summit Kala Patthar in the land of the giants.
After seven wonderful days of hiking they approached Periche, a village before base camp to see a helicopter deliver two body bags and an injured person. As soon as they were dropped off, the helicopter headed back up the mountain. “We knew something terrible had happened. An avalanche buried 16 Sherpas on Everest that day making it the mountain’s worst tragedy.” However, the sherpas in charge of Steve’s group, decided to take them to base camp and then to the summit of Kala Patthar. “The journey up was tough, my brother nearly didn’t make the summit, but those few days gave us a whole new respect for the people that earn their living up there in the land of the giants.”
What happened at Everest really affected Steve. After returning home he said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about the families that would be hugely affected by the loss of a loved one and the consequent lack of income.” This was when the fundraising bug re-emerged. “I promised to return and do the Everest marathon, raising as much as I could for the Himalayan Trust UK and the British Heart Foundation.” So Steve and his son Matthew set about raising money and organising fundraising opportunities under the name, ‘Heartbeat for Everest’. At 63 he would become one of the oldest people to complete the marathon as well as the only person to complete it with a pacemaker. Over the next year Steve spoke at lots of schools and in local papers talking about his experiences at Everest and his forthcoming record breaking run. He raised over £5,500 for British Heart Foundation and HTUK.